Pre-prohibition cocktails and modern twists on classics




1.5oz Rittenhouse Rye

.75oz Green Chartreuse

.75oz Apple Brandy


Add the rye , green Chartreuse and apple brandy to a chilled mixing glass. Add ice and stir until well chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. 


I apologize in advance for the length of these notes, but it seems necessary. First off: this is a very potent cocktail. Note that the lowest proof ingredients in this one are 100 proof. As a fan of high proof uncut whiskey (try George T. Stagg straight at 143 proof), the higher alcohol content is a welcomed change. That being said, be careful, as you are consuming 3oz of 100+ proof liquor in this cocktail.

  • Sweet apples, anise and a spiritous whiff of alcohol on the nose. Somehow the Diamondback ends up tasting much lighter than you might expect, but don’t be fooled, this is a boozy cocktail. At first, the Diamondback goes down deceptively smooth. Sweetness from the Chartreuse and Apple Brandy dominate early. The apple flavor is prevalent throughout, even though at lower ratios than the rye. The whiskey really serves as a base, but is somewhat overshadowed (if you can believe it) by apples, anise and herbs. Toward the end of the palate a burn from the alcohol sets it, followed by a sweet apple tinged finish. But then after you think it’s all over. . . a little alcoholic burn resurfaces.
  • To be completely honest, when you first taste the Diamindback you are likely to think, damn, this sounded really good, but I must have screwed up or used the wrong ratios, or maybe this just isn’t for me: “I don’t get it.” After you get a few sips in, the Diamondback really starts to shine. My explanation: your palate opens up to the higher alcohol content (read: you are a little buzzed). Try one for yourself, but don’t be surprised if it bites you like the snake you probably think the name suggests (see history). Just remember to give it a chance for its venom to get to you before you imbibe on another.

Sidenote: People talk about cures for the common cold. Some talk of a hard shot of whiskey, others of brandy as the cure. The “healthier” folks promote a combination of herbs and vegetables. You know what I’m getting at: the Diamondback hits all these notes in one cocktail. Just be careful not to overdose. Regardless,  after one, you are surely no longer to notice that you are sick anymore.

Diamondback 2


While the Lord Baltimore Hotel is still around, the Diamondback Lounge isn’t.

Most credit the Diamondback to the Diamondback Lounge in the Lord Baltimore Hotel in Baltimore, Md. The question raised by many before me is: does this cocktail get it’s name from the bite of the Diamondback snake, or is is it from something much more simple, the diamondback turtle, or Terrapin. Those vaguely into college sports likely know that the Terrapin is the mascot for University of Maryland’s sports teams. Regardless of which reptile the Diamondback gets its name from, the first published version was in Ted Saucier’s Bottoms Up (1954), which makes this most likely a post prohibition classic. The original recipe is as follows:


  • 1.5oz Rye
  • .75oz Apple Brandy
  • .75oz Yellow Chartreuse

Many “modern” mixologists have preferred this one with green Chartreuse, including myself. There is something missing in the yellow Chartreuse version, which, while still good, lacks the high proof balance provided by green Chartreuse.

Still others make the Diamondback with a 2:1:1 ratio of Rye: Apple Brandy: Chartreuse (of either kind). If you are going this route, I prefer it will a slightly lower proof rye, such as Bulleit Rye (see Whiskey in Cocktails for more recommendations). To my tastes though, the recipe presented above is the best of the bunch. Try it all ways though, then let me know what you think.


A great variation I came up with is to use a 2:1:1: ratio of Rye: Green Chartreuse: Apple Brandy: Campari.

Diamondback 3

The added Campari completely changes the flavor. A much lighter citrus front end is followed by a heavy dose of anise and herbs but culminates in a bitter whiskey and brandy soaked finish, not unlike the finish of an Old Fashioned. A highly recommended variation.

6 Responses to “Diamondback”

  1. Widow’s Kiss | The Straight Up

    […] lowest proof ingredient is 80 proof), the Widow’s Kiss may appeal to fans of the high octane Diamondback. The sweet brandy flavor pulls through while just a hint of apple remains, layered in with the […]

  2. Serial Killer | The Straight Up

    […] and hit you so much harder than you would expect. Recommended for all, but especially if you like diamondback and widow’s kiss. While slightly lighter in alcohol than these two boozy drinks, it also […]


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